Saturday 29 November 2014

27 Thaumont 1000AC - The Approach to Kota-Hutan Temple

At first light Broneslav arose and breakfasted well. It would be a busy day and he would need all his energy for fighting. He packed only what he would need for the day and left the rest of his supplies in the room at Rahasia's house. He figured that he would be able to carry more treasure out of the temple that way. No doubt Rahasia would want her stolen dowry returning, so he needed to make sure he could carry that as well as the vast wealth that would soon be his. Evil sorcerers accumulated wealth, did they not? Or was that dragons? Oh well, he would find out soon enough.

"I am ready," he announced, "lead me to the fray."

With that he, Rahasia and a couple of the larger Elves set out on the trail to the temple. It was another cold and dreary day, lifted only by the unnatural light that seemed to pervade the Elven forest. Thaumont was always cold and dreary, at least it was when Winter was not trying to prevent Spring from arriving by snowing again.
Broneslav's map of the route to the temple
After an hour's walking the going got tougher as they entered the hills south of Kota-Hutan. Half an hour later they had reached a small shrine by the trail.
"We stop and rest here for a short while," declared Rahasia. She herself entered the shrine and placed several pieces of fruit on the altar in front of a large statue of strong-looking man with a huge and imposing beard. She murmured a short prayer and returned to the others. Broneslav stuck his head through the door. The shrine was wooden and built in the Elven style. The statue and the altar stood in the middle of it facing the door. To either side of the door were unoccupied and unused alcoves.

Glancing into the shrine past Rahasia, Broneslav noticed something odd about the two alcoves (Successful Hard check versus his Keen Vision attribute). He tried stepping past her to check what he thought he had seen but she stepped in his way.

"I'm sorry, but you must not pass the Old One's gaze. It is disrespectful to him. He was once Elayas, a wizard of great power who founded the Quiet Way that was followed in the temple until the Rahib arrived. Elayas was the spiritual leader of the Siswa, but it is said that he disappeared in a terrible battle with three witches. He is one of our immortals now."

Broneslav considered pushing past Rahasia anyway. There was something funny about the patterns of dust in the alcoves that intrigued him. However, good manners won out and he stepped outside the shrine. Maybe he could investigate later when she was not around. (I thought it unlikely that he would be so ill-mannered as to ignore Rahasia's wishes and the oracle agreed with me)

The group continued up the hill towards the temple that was now visible. It was cut into the hillside with a wall around it some twenty feet high. Great silvered gates dominated the centre of that wall and reflected the sunlight down into the valley. Broneslav wondered how far into the hill the temple was cut. Well, he would find out soon enough.

Rahasia announced, "I shall wait for you near the shrine where I can hide and watch for you. Take care and please succeed. If you do not then things will go much the worse for us."

"Yes, and if I fail then things will have gone pretty badly for me too, you know," Broneslav responded snippishly. Then, more gently, "Don't worry. I shall do everything I can to rescue your loved ones and the Siswa."

He hitched his belt up, settled his pack on his back, and set off up the hill through the bushes beside the road. It looked like there was only one entrance, so he would have to use that, but there was no sense in not being careful too. There might be hidden watchers nearby.

Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, HP 9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)
XPs: 60
Torenescu Family Member 1
Hunter 1
Keen Vision 1
Good Education 1
Empathy with Animals 1
Goal: Prove that he is an adult following the Shearing Ceremony
Goal: Slay a red dragon
Quest: Deliver a parcel to Merisa in Gray Mountain Village

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Meeting at Longlier - CDTOB AAR Part 3

We completed the Meeting at Longlier scenario some weeks ago, but I have only now managed to edit the photos and write the game up. I am such a slacker! Anyway, this is the final part of the scenario write-up. Part 1 and Part 2 were posted some time back on the blog. At the end of the last turn, the Germans were pushing hard on their left flank and things looked grim for the French on that side. The town of Longlier was hotly disputed in the centre with both sides occupying half of it. The battle on the right was much more open and the German cavalry had broken round the flank and were aiming to capture the French regimental command.
The situation at the end of Turn 7
How it looked to us
As the French cavalry chased the German cavalry, a French company was dispatched to intercept the Germans, Meanwhile another French company captured a village near the railway bridge and a third company of that battalion was moving to capture the village on the ridge, but it was going to have to fight through a German company in the woods first.
French infantry move to intercept German cavalry
The battle in Longlier saw the Germans pushed back and taking losses, while two French companies closed the pincers on the town to ensure that the Germans would have nowhere to go but into the bag. Artillery and machine-gun fire were doing a good job of suppressing the Germans to ease the French advance.
Longlier from the south (The beige markers show pinned German units. The French are on the left of the photo)
Longlier from the north with the French on the right of the photo
On the French right flank, it was a completely different picture. The fight in the woods had heated up and lead was flying everywhere. The French 75s were working overtime to try to suppress the Germans, while the battalion commander was busily rallying one of his companies. The Germans were starting to take heavy losses here too, but the French definitely had the worst of it with damaged and demoralised companies trying to hold the line and give the artillery time to escape.
The battle for the southern woods. Beige markers show pinned German units. The other pin markers are French and the red and green markers show demoralised French troops
Fortunately for the French, the German infantry had found the whole affair too hot for them too and their entire left flank became pinned down. At this point, the German commander decided to cede the day to the French and regroup his troops. There was be time enough another day to assault Longlier.
French losses
German Losses

French losses in this game were very light, as the photo shows. The Germans took horrendous losses. This was one reason why Steve called it a day and ceded the game to me. I got lucky in that his morale rolls at the end of turn 7 were terrible, resulting in a very large part of his army pinning. His morale might have held out better had this not happened, because he could then have driven home against my battered troops there. This would have freed up his left flank to relieve Longlier. He would have had between 1 and 5 turns for this, depending upon the game end die roll, so it could have been feasible. Having to rally and regroup his troops first meant that he probably would not have had time for this.

This was a good fun scenario. It worked well as a training scenario to teach Steve the new rules and to remind me of how Command Decision works. I am now keen to play the rest of the scenarios in The Death of Glory, but I also wonder about reducing them in size. They are all really too large to suit the available time we have for gaming, so we need to consider how best to reduce the size of the forces and still play an interesting scenario.

Saturday 22 November 2014

25-26 Thaumont 1000AC - Rahasia

Broneslav kicked back for the day in Reedle following a long lie in. Reedle was a village that provided services for caravans making the arduous trek along the Duke's Road, as well as having a very healthy agricultural background that had made many of its farmers very wealthy.

The ice that was still forming on the puddles in the muddy streets encouraged Broneslav to seek his entertainment indoors and he soon found himself a couple of Royals up in a card game when a yell in the street had him moving from his seat to see what was going on, just as a cartload of logs shed its load against the wall of the Rusty Sword tavern. The tavern was flimsily built and the wall gave way quickly. Skipping out of the way of the logs, Broneslav took this as his cue to leave. The rest of the day passed uneventfully.
The following day, he got up early, shouldered his pack, and set off northwards on his errand. He made good time, encountering only the usual travellers on his way and reached the smaller road into the woods that Sindar had instructed him to take. As he followed this road, he noticed that the trees around him soon seemed taller and more imposing. Spring seemed to be arriving early in this part of the forest, because he noticed that some trees were even now in bud. Wondering at this, Broneslav rounded a corner on the path and the low afternoon soon glinted off something metallic in the undergrowth beside the trail. He stopped to check. It was an Elf. His coat of mail was badly damaged and the blows that had caused the rings to break asunder had done similar damage to his body.

Checking to see if the Elf carried anything that might identify him, Broneslav noticed a scroll tucked into the body's belt. He read it quickly and realised that the Elf had been a messenger coming from Kota-Hutan. Someone called Rahasia had sent the Elf to seek help, and the message was a call to arms for any brave enough to face the threat that Rahasia's village faced.

"Aha!" thought Broneslav, "This looks like the first step on my road to glory, and it goes in the right direction too, for this package I carry is to be delivered at this self-same village. So, I shall defeat this Rahib and then be able to return covered in glory and gold to my beautiful Milka, she of the rose red lips and snow white skin. I shall rest my head on her breast with my reputation established and all shall be well."

He pondered who and what the Rahib might be as he followed the path further. He or it was certainly some kind of sorcerer, for the curse seemed real enough even allowing for hyperbole. The acolytes at the temple, the Siswa, may have been turned by the Rahib's magic, hence their refusal to permit any of the villagers to visit and the disappearance of this Rahasia's father and of her fiancee Hasan. Yes, this was shaping up to be a proper adventure, and Broneslav could be the hero that saved the day for Rahasia and the two other maidens that the Rahib had demanded. Damsel in distress: check. Evil sorcerer: check. Hero with sword: check. Perhaps accounting himself a hero already was a bit much, but Broneslav was prone to such daydreaming. It was better than the cold, wet, muddy alternative of actually being on an adventure.

With his thoughts occupied by dreams of glory, gold and the reddest of lips, the last part of the journey to the village passed quickly. A few Elves were abroad at this time and Broneslav was quickly able to meet with Rahasia. She was incredibly beautiful, even by Elven standards of ethereal grace, but Broneslav's tastes ran to more substantial women.

"Bit too skinny for my liking," he thought uncharitably, before agreeing to sort the problem out as Rahasia requested. He thought he noticed some doubt in her face about his ability to cope with the Rahib, but he quickly dismissed it in his own mind. After all, three feet of steel sticking out of his chest should severely discourage the Rahib from continuing to live.

Rahasia had food brought for Broneslav and talked about the temple as he ate. She announced that she would guide him to the base of Grey Mountain where the temple lay so that he would be on the right path, but she did not dare go further in case the Rahib captured her.

With food in his belly and Rahasia's instructions in his ears, Broneslav took a hot bath and went to bed early. Tomorrow would be a busy day.

Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, HP 9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)
XPs: 60
Torenescu Family Member 1
Hunter 1
Keen Vision 1
Good Education 1
Empathy with Animals 1
Goal: Prove that he is an adult following the Shearing Ceremony
Goal: Slay a red dragon
Quest: Deliver a parcel to Merisa in Gray Mountain Village

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Vikings invade Pictland - a Dux Bellorum mini-report

Last week we played Dux Bellorum. We are playing again this week so I thought I should try to remember what happened and post a short report before the new game completely wipes the old one from my memory. I fielded a Viking army as Land Raiders. Steve used his new Picts. This meant we knew who would win at the outset because my Vikings are veterans of many games and newly painted figures never win their first outing, except against other newly painted figures.

I had chosen Champion's Challenge, Fanatics and Mead as strategies for my army. I also bought an extra Leadership Point. Steve had bought an extra 3 Leadership Points, but I don't think he had bought any strategies. Steve was the defender and I was the attacker. He set up the terrain as you can see below and I chose to deploy between a field and some woods, forcing him to split his army so that it could move easily in groups. My champion called his out and won, reducing Steve's Leadership Points by one as a result of being demoralised at the death of their biggest bloke.

Vikings at the bottom of the picture
There was little tactical subtlety in the battle. I began by sending my berserkers (Fanatics) off on a charge against Steve's right flank (my left). I hoped that they would disrupt his formation while the rest of my force picked apart his main body.
Berserkers to the left of me, Warriors to the right, and here I am stuck in the middle with you
The berserkers saw off a unit of skirmishers but were very quickly cut down, so I sent a unit of warriors off to delay the enemy some more. They did this rather well which surprised me.
The main body assaults the Pictish main body and is threatened by the skirmish horse from behind, Meanwhile the warriors on the left are holding up twice their own number and winning. That mead I gave them sure paid off.
My warriors actually won on the left flank while my main body, fuelled by mead proceeded to pick apart the enemy. The game ended with the Pictish general surrounded and eventually cut down. His bodyguard died with him and will be remembered in our songs.
The poor surrounded Pictish general
This was a good fun, but brutal game. We got a couple of things wrong but not too much at all. The key to winning it for me was picking the right fights in the main combat. Rolling well also helped, but it is fair to say that the mid-game was characterised by my inability to roll fives or sixes despite rolling whole buckets of dice. I'm fielding the Vikings as Saxons in the next game and shall try some different strategies this time around.

Steve got frustrated in the last game because he did so little damage to my troops, but that did not stop him from declaring what fun the rules are. I concur. I am now planning an Elven army using the Late Roman list and a Norman army based on the Romano-British list. It may well be time to find my painting mojo again.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Grand Admiral: Castles of Steel - WW1 Naval Game

We played Grand Admiral: Castles of Steel last night. I have been looking for a fast-playing naval wargames rules set for WW1 for some years now and found this to be interesting, so I bought and downloaded it. Previously I have played a lot of General Quarters 2. GQ2 is a fine game but it does not play quickly enough for the size of game I want to play, i.e. Jutland.

Anyway, it all began many years ago, when I bought a Conflict Miniatures (formerly Knight Designs) 1:5000 fleet set with all of the ships required for Jutland. These tiny beauties ranged in size from approximately 10mm in length for a destroyer to 20mm for a battleship and I have always thought that they must be 1:10000 and not 1:5000 scale. For their size they are brilliant. Individual classes of ship are recognisable with the larger models and I was quite taken with them, but I always found naval wargaming to be a bit sterile. Still, I painted them all and they languished in the cupboard for years awaiting a willing opponent. Then last night I finally persuaded Steve to play. Yay!
The British squadrons are at the bottom of this picture. Light cruisers are on the left, battleships in the centre and battlecruisers on the right. The German battleships are steaming at full speed down the centre, while the two battlecruiser squadrons are manoeuvring up top left.
I quickly put together two small battle-groups of three squadrons each and offered Steve the choice of sides. He picked the Germans, so I wound up with the British. We set up our ships and set to. It was a simple engagement that saw both of us steaming towards each other, although my own efforts to cross the T were slightly subtler than Steve's plan of steaming right into the middle of my ships with his battleships while his battle-cruisers lagged behind. The net result was that I was able to concentrate fire on his battleships and sink them all before engaging his battlecruisers and sinking enough of them to win the game. Steve severely damaged several of my ships and sunk a few, but the advantage was definitely mine.

The game itself played rather well, although it took longer than I expected. The key mechanic of the game is the card draw for movement and firing. A deck is constructed consisting of Ace through Six and two face cards in different suits for each side (we used hearts for the British and spades for the Germans). Each player holds a hand of three cards at the start and plays one card from that hand when it is their turn. They then draw another card. Play continues until all the cards have been played and the deck is then reshuffled ready for the next round to begin. When a player plays a number card (Ace to Six) all ships of the side associated with that suit whose speed is equal to or greater than the number may move. When a face card is played, all ships of that side may shoot. Players are not allowed to discard or pass, so they must, at some point, play cards that let their opponent act. The key is to work out when this is most advantageous for you. I like this mechanism, because it adds a bit of planning ahead to the game and introduces some uncertainty. Both of these are things I like in my games.

For shooting, the game uses the bucket of dice approach which we enjoy, but it also provides an optional single die resolution system. With the bucket of dice you roll for hits first based on being at short or long range, and then you roll for damage for each successful hit by rolling equal to or greater than the target's armour value minus your gun's penetration value. Damage causes ships to first become crippled and then to sink. Thus, ships have two floating states which amount to full strength and half strength. There are no critical hits or other fripperies, because this is intended to be a fleet level game played in a reasonable length of time.

Grand Admiral is designed to be played on a hex grid but we just counted one hex as two inches and worked everything out from there. The only way this affected the game was that our squadrons would have been deployed in one hex each and could have turned as a squadron on one movement card. The way we played, they needed several movement cards for the whole squadron to change direction while remaining in line. This slowed movement down, but felt about right.

Overall, we enjoyed the game and will play again at some point. I shall certainly try to get Steve to play General Quarters too, but that will have to be for smaller games because of the extra detail in those rules. Now that I have used my ships, I think I may rebase them to be more user friendly too. At the very least, they need names that are visible without having to pick the ship up or have an encyclopaedic knowledge of ship profiles from the period. It might also prove useful to base them on small hexes to aid with working out arcs of fire. I look forward to the rebasing and hopefully playing with these figures that I have bought over twenty years ago now.